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COUNTY CONNECTIONS: Summer Field Work During COVID-19

May 29, 2020 11:07AM ● By Editor
From Cook County MN - May 28, 2020

By: Cook County staff

Cook County is committed to providing services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For now, the courthouse and other county facilities are closed to the public, with many staff working remotely. This helps protect both our employees and the public while still delivering the services our residents and visitors need.

Seasonal field activities will proceed as in years past, with the application of public health best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19. This article highlights three departments’ seasonal field activities.

Soil and Water Conservation District

For the Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), springtime involves preparing for the field season. Staff are working with partners on completing permits and with landowners on preparing contracts, as well as on putting projects out to bid, preparing projects for installation and finalizing project timelines.

The SWCD has three large culvert projects and several raingardens to install this summer. Staff are also preparing for another season of culvert inventory, which means pouring over maps and locating and labeling culverts. Doing so helps maximize efficiency in the field. Additionally, staff are working with various funders and researching funding opportunities for additional projects.

Outreach and education efforts continue with activities such as an Earth Day nature collage contest, newspaper inserts, lake management plans planning with lake associations and radio interviews. As always, landowners can contact the SWCD for assistance: staff will arrange site visits at a later date.

Land Services

Field work continues in Land Services. Permits are being processed as weather and soil conditions allow. This includes land use, grade and fill, wetland, sign and recreational vehicle permits, as well as vacation rental licensing. Additionally, variance requests, conditional and interim use permit applications, re-zoning requests and plat requests are moving forward as usual.

The solid waste division is also moving forward, most notably with the reopening of the recycling center on a limited basis. Hours of operation are regularly re-assessed to determine when full services may resume.  Interestingly, more than one-third of the recycling centers around the state are currently closed. As recycling is a high priority for our community, we are committed to remaining open.

Our environmental health division continues to process septic permits as weather and soil conditions allow; this includes working with the Auditor’s Office to process low-interest septic loan applications. We are also processing water samples and distributing radon and other home tests, and we are still accepting and evaluating any public health nuisance complaints.

Assessor’s Office

The Assessor’s Office will start door-to-door field inspections in June. Physical inspections typically take 10 to 15 minutes; this allows the appraiser to verify property data and check for new construction, updates and/or depreciation.

Per MN State Statute 273.08, the Assessor’s Office is required to physically inspect all improved property at least once every five years. The county utilizes a process called “Quintile Inspections” (quintile meaning five areas). This year’s quintile comprises a block that covers Cascade Beach Road and runs up to the east end of Pike Lake, up to Two Island and Devil Track lakes, across Maple Hill and over to the County Road 14 loop and Hovland border, while excluding Grand Marais.

County appraisers will also be inspecting all new construction before winter. These inspections start the year the assessor becomes aware of a project and continue annually until construction is complete. While some states do not tax a structure’s value until it’s complete, Minnesota taxes improvements based on the completion percentage and value as of January 2nd of each year.

The work being done by these departments ensures that projects can proceed and our land and water resources are being protected. So, if you see county staff out and about this summer, please say hello…from six feet away, of course!

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service